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Drive to improve inpatient prescription charts

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Hospitals have been told to review the design of drugs charts in a bid to reduce potentially harmful errors by nurses and doctors.

The move follows the launch of guidance on the design of charts, which could be a step towards a standard national inpatient prescription chart.

Trusts have been urged to benchmark their charts against new guidelines drawn up by the Academy of Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing and Royal Pharmaceutical Society.  Work is also currently under way to develop a standard chart for use across the NHS.

RCN learning and development facilitator Ruth Burey, who was involved in devising the guidelines, said there was a real need for more standardisation in charts used across the NHS.

“One issue that came up was the fact nurses and doctors tend to move from organisation to organisation, and one thing that would help improve safety was some consistency in terms of how charts read and what they looked like,” she told Nursing Times.

Uncertainty over when a course of treatment started or was due to end, illegible handwriting, the prescription of incompatible drugs and failure to record a patient’s sensitivities and allergies to certain drugs were among common problems that could be prevented by better charts, she said.

The guidelines, which apply to paper and electronic charts, include recommendations on their content. For example, including a space “in a prominent place on the front page” where drug sensitivities and allergies can be recorded.

Nursing directors and other senior trust managers were alerted to the guidelines last week in a joint letter from NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, chief nursing officer Dame Christine Beasley and chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Keith Ridge.

Ms Burey stressed local efforts to review and improve charts must be a joint effort between medical, nursing and pharmacy staff. 

“It’s important take a collective approach by working together to improve safety and medicine management. We need to get this right as far too many mistakes are being made,” she said.

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